things are about to get busy up in here.

toddler busy bag Last summer I visited my friend Lesley shortly after her second baby Owen was born. We sat on her couch chit-chatting about life and motherhood, when he started to cry. As she got ready to nurse him, her toddler Anna promptly asked for the "nursing bag". Lesley nodded in approval and minutes later Anna reappeared with a special bag full of toys and books that she only had access to while Lesley was breastfeeding. And then she sat on the floor, quietly, while Lesley nursed and we continued to talk.

Brilliant.

Likewise, we have a special bin of toys in Everett's closet that he is only allowed to play with during independent play time. And let me tell you: there is something magical about toys that are only available some of the time. Every morning when I pull that bin out, Everett's face lights up like he's never seen those toys before. He picks a few handfuls to dump into his crib, and plays for 30-45 minutes in his room by himself.

Magic I tell you.

Now that we're 12 weeks out from adding another baby to our clan (!!!), I'm starting to get our ducks in a row. We've got a nursery to decorate, a toddler bed to transition into, and a nursing bag to create.

Here's what I have planned for ours so far:

1. Drawstring backpack ($5.60) - Simple, multi-functional, classic. And you can't beat the price.

2. Finger puppets ($4.99) - These are just plain cute. Great for encouraging imaginative play.

3. Shape puzzle ($10) - Everett is obsessed with puzzles, and I love that this one teaches shapes and colors. Plus, it's the perfect size for our little bag. Use promo code wmHEARTr for 10% off and check out Becky's blog here

4. Wooden tow truck ($40) - If there is one thing we can never have enough of, it's toy cars and trucks. This little set comes with a tow truck, car, and two little "passengers" to add to the fun. Best of all? They're handcrafted in the good ole USA. Use promo code SUMMER10 for 10% off any purchase through the end of August. 

5. Touch and feel flashcards ($8.99) - We have the "first words" version of these flashcards and Everett still loves them one year later. Another set would be a guaranteed win.

6. String-a-farm ($12.99) - Encourages fine motor skills and manual dexterity, plus you can just play with the animals individually. Cute, cute.

7. Classic ball and cup game ($6) - I'm not sure if Everett would be able to do this, but his athletic ability and hand/eye coordination never ceases to amaze me. At any rate, he'd have a blast trying. Handcrafted in the USA and available in multiple colors (from all natural dyes). Use promo code GADD10 for 10% your purchase. 

8. Wooden balancing game ($18) - Helps build intuition about weight, balance, and motion. You pick your own animals and wood (so many options!). Handcrafted in USA from American hardwood. Use promo code "Ashlee" for 10% off through the end of August. 

9. Latches board ($21.08) - Everyone I know who has one of these, raves about it. Plus it's the #1 bestseller in "pegged puzzles" on Amazon so I'm sold.

Any other ideas for a busy bag? Do tell. 

the not-so-terrible twos.

52 Project | Where My Heart Resides-3 Everyone warned me about the terrible twos. Moms at the grocery store. Total strangers at the post office. Every time someone asked Everett's age and I answered, I received the same response:

"Oooooh, the terrible twos! Watch out! I hope you're ready!"

I awkwardly smiled back, as I usually do when I receive unwanted, unsolicited advice or warnings of any kind.

Because here's the deal....

My kid is two, and he's not terrible. 

Sure, we have terrible moments and occasional terrible tantrums and sometimes even terrible days (we've had a few recently), but to sum him up in all his two year-old toddlerhood glory as being "terrible" would be a truly unfair assessment.

Case in point:

Every morning, my two year-old asks me if we can go "bye bye". He brings me his shoes with no destination in mind, no grand plan or ulterior motive. He simply wants to have an adventure. And whether we end up at the park or the bank, he is equally pleased, and says, "Dat was fun!" as we walk back to the car.

My two year-old's favorite phrase is "Dat cool!" and he uses it unceasingly over the smallest of things. See a tractor on the road? Dat cool! Watch momma crack an egg over a mixing bowl? Dat cool! Watch daddy turn on the ceiling fan? Dat cool! 

Everything is cool to a two year-old. My confidence has never been so abundant.

My two year-old loves to play Sleeping Beauty. I pretend to be asleep until he kisses me, at which point I wake up and yell "GOOD MORNING!" while he bursts into a fit of giggles. We can play this game for 45 minutes straight and it makes him laugh every time.

My two year-old loves hot wheels and toy balls and jumping on the bed and being outside. He says "wow!" a dozen times a day, constantly amazed by simple sights that anyone older than two would find boring or irrelevant. He sings in the car, loudly, and dances without inhibition. He runs everywhere and gallops regularly, happy to use his skinny legs to their full capacity.

My two year-old says "hi" to every single person he sees, and will wave at them and repeat his greeting until he gets a response. Sometimes it breaks my heart a little bit when people don't hear him, but he never seems bothered by an unreciprocated greeting. He just says "hi" to the next person he sees, and the person after that, and the person after that.

Two is fun. Two is all about learning words and learning how the world works and learning how to communicate your needs and desires. I'm sure there are some terrible two year-olds out there, just like there are some terrible three year-olds, and some terrible seventeen year-olds, and some terrible forty-five year olds.

But today, I'd like to speak up in defense of two year-olds.

They're not all bad. They're not all terrible.

In fact, mine is pretty great.

So the next time you find yourself in the grocery store standing behind a momma with a two year-old in the shopping cart, be kind to her and try this instead: "Two? Dat cool!"